Monday, April 29, 2024

Dr Michael Johnston: Epitaph for a dumb idea

Shortly after the turn of the millennium, the gurus of progressive education coined the term twenty-first century learning. After all, what is the point of a new millennium if we don’t take the opportunity to try something new? Who cares if there’s no evidence? If it sounds good, do it!

The sages of twenty-first century learning resisted defining their term. They preferred wise sayings. One remnant of ancient wisdom in their creed was Aristotle’s emphasis on critical thinking. His penchant for knowledge, though, not so much.

The Ministry of Education disseminated the sages’ wisdom on the Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) website. “We need to understand the changes in the meaning of terms such as knowledge”, they intoned. As it turned out, this meant that knowledge was to be abolished.

In 2007, the Ministry’s twenty-first century learning illuminati graced us with a new curriculum. True to their doctrine, the document was long on inspiring slogans and very short on knowledge.

Another thing to be abolished, along with knowledge, was teaching. TKI quoted one teacher as saying, with the air of a repentant sinner, “I am no longer a teacher; I am a facilitator. I help students on their journey. I do not create their journey; I guide them on their path.”

One can almost smell the incense.

Students became ‘learners’ and were encouraged to forge their own paths, provisioned with a cornucopia of digital devices. It was brave. It was inspiring. The sages were motivated by the best of intentions.

But you know what they say about the road to hell.

Many learners became hopelessly lost. Their paths all too often ran in circles. They took to the technology with enthusiasm, though.

The result is a generation of young people that is all over social media but not so great at reading, writing, or knowing things.

So, knowledge has been evacuated from the curriculum, teachers have been sidelined, and students must find their own paths. Yet critical thinking remains essential.

In other words, students must teach themselves to think critically about nothing.

Unhappily for the priests of twenty-first century learning, it looks as if they will soon be defrocked. The counter-reformation is underway.

Minister of Education, Erica Stanford, has vowed to bring knowledge back into the curriculum. She wants expert teachers to take charge in their classrooms.

It comes as no surprise that the Minister completed her education during the twentieth century.

Dr Michael Johnston has held academic positions at Victoria University of Wellington for the past ten years. He holds a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Melbourne. This article was published HERE


Anonymous said...

One thing to eliminate forthwith:
the current curriculum is centred on the Te Ao (Maori) vision of the world.

This was imposed - never discussed. This has been part of imposing the view that Maori ethnicity has superiority over all others in NZ. This is part of the He Puapua agenda.

A factual account of NZ history should be taught - but not this dominant over-arching view of Education based on Maori culture.

Peter said...

All credit where credit's due Michael. Those priests are more than two-to-one dominated by priestesses. And if ever one doubted their success at reducing the ability of 'adults' to engage in intelligible discourse, just spend a few minutes on a social medium like Facebook/Meta. Case proven and, thereby, rested?

As for the Minister, yes, she had the advantage of twentieth century pedagogy but also, I'm sure she'll attest, those more ancient benefits that flowed from her acknowledged 'Treaty partnership.'

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

'Teaching', woops I mean 'facilitating', Science under the fashionable new paradigm involves school kids 'thinking like scientists' and devising their own experiments.
Kids cannot think like scientists because scientists draw on a huge knowledge base when thinking. Kids don't have that and the de-emphasising of factual knowledge means they don't even have a small knowledge base to draw on.
They can't devise experimental investigations either because they have no knowledge of lab equipment and techniques. Leave it to kids and somebody will get hurt - and the teacher ostensibly in charge will be facing litigation for professional negligence.

Gaynor said...

The head girl prefects at the Ministry of Miss Ed are quite fearsome. My acquaintance, quite a big boy who worked in the same building as the Ministry said even he felt quite threatened by their presence, while sharing a lift with them.

They are tyrants who tolerate no criticism. In a communication with the Ministry some years ago their parting dictate was ,'Don't be ridiculous. Do what we say. We know best!' Just like legendary schoolmarms of the so called bad old days.

The progressive belief that even basic foundational knowledge is indoctrination is plain crazy. This means knowing: 4x8, what an even number is, the months of the year, where Africa is on a map, the temperature of boiling water,etc are excluded from being explicitly learned by a student.

These kahunas need to be confronted and recognize the damage they are doing to OUR children, through their fake theories and pedagogies. They are great pretenders. They must know that what they are doing is not what parents and the public want. Their collectivist agenda must crumble. NOW.